×

The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife

Del Shores, that grand master of Southern lowlife sensibilities, has once again culled his Texas roots and come up with a winner. The award-winning scripter of such legit hits as "Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will?", "Sordid Lives" and "Southern Baptist Sissies" peruses the life and times of abused but valiant stay-at-home trailer park housewife Willadean Winkler (Beth Grant) as she attempts to transcend the mean existence inflicted on her by cruel-to-the-bone hubby J.D. (David Steen). Shores, who also helms, manages to fully explore Willadean's horrific plight while infusing the work with such hilarity the audience is often reduced to tears and laughter within the same breath. </B>

With:
Willadean Winkler - Beth Grant J.D. Winkler - David Steen LaSonia Robinson - Octavia Spencer Rayleen Hobbs - Dale Dickey Blues Singer - Debby Holiday

Del Shores, that grand master of Southern lowlife sensibilities, has once again culled his Texas roots and come up with a winner. The award-winning scripter of such legit hits as “Daddy’s Dyin’, Who’s Got the Will?”, “Sordid Lives” and “Southern Baptist Sissies” peruses the life and times of abused but valiant stay-at-home trailer park housewife Willadean Winkler (Beth Grant) as she attempts to transcend the mean existence inflicted on her by cruel-to-the-bone hubby J.D. (David Steen). Shores, who also helms, manages to fully explore Willadean’s horrific plight while infusing the work with such hilarity the audience is often reduced to tears and laughter within the same breath.

Set in a small Texas town, the action takes place mostly in the interior of Willadean’s neat but sparse trailer. Despite her constantly stated mantra, “I am not gonna shrivel up and die,” she is a woman without options.

Popular on Variety

Forbidden to work by hard-drinking J.D. (who earns only a meager income himself as an asphalt hauler), Willadean’s only respites from her misery are the afternoon TV talk show sessions she shares with neighbor and best friend LaSonia (Octavia Spencer), her efforts to improve herself by learning one new word a day from the dictionary and her memories of her departed children. Her rebellious daughter died in a car crash at 16 and her gay son was kicked out of their house by his father. Willadean is forbidden to mention them or display their photos in J.D.’s presence.

Grant thoroughly inhabits Willadean’s soul, instilling in her an unquenchable vivacity that radiates from within no matter what degradation is being heaped upon her. It is both heartbreaking and awe-inspiring to witness Willadean’s placating cheerfulness as she marshals all her attention and energy to serve her besotted despot. It is only when she witnesses J.D.’s late night drunken tryst with their new trailer neighbor, the much-traveled waitress Rayleen (Dale Hickey), that Willadean makes the courageous but dangerous decision to change her life.

The comedic highlights of the production are Willadean’s sessions with LaSonia and Rayleen (prior to the infidelity). Spencer’s LaSonia (“pronounced like the Italian noodle”) is a rock bed of down home common sense and stability who is quick to love and just as quick to condemn. Her opinion of Rayleen is succinct: “Well, she is trash that will not burn.” Dickey’s woebegone Rayleen certainly lives up to LaSonia’s assessment. Lacking even a modicum of intelligence or common sense, Rayleen desperately wants to fit in somewhere and have friends but is totally helpless to fend off J.D.’s sleazy advances.

Steen, an acclaimed scripter of such notable legit works as “A Gift From Heaven” and “Avenue A,” is as riveting as he is hateful as the former high school star athlete, who takes out his subsequent failures in life nightly on his wife. Steen’s J.D. is a monument to self-loathing who spouts biblical justification for his subjugation of Willadean and exudes a spirit-crippling negativity just by walking into a room.

Shores utilizes accomplished and winsome pop vocalist Debby Holiday as a blues singing Greek chorus to the action, offering beautifully performed commentary to Willadean’s plight while also serving to bridge the scenes. She is ably accompanied by music director/pianist Joe Patrick Ward who composed the thematically appropriate songs in collaboration with producer Sharyn Lane and Shores.

Robert Steinberg’s set impressively displays the claustrophobic intimacy of the Willadean’s trailer while also detailing other locations, such as the beer bar where J.D. constantly hits on Rayleen. Craig Taggart’s costumes are on the mark, especially Rayleen’s hilariously tawdry short-shorts and bare midriff tops.

The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife

Zephyr Theater, West Hollywood; 99 seats; $28 top

Production: Sharyn Lane presents a play in three acts, written and directed by Del Shores. Musical director/pianist, Joe Patrick Ward.

Creative: Sets, Robert Steinberg; lights, Kathi O'Donohue; costumes, Craig Taggert; sound, Drew Dalzell; music, Ward; lyrics, Lane, Shores & Ward. Opened March 28, 2003; reviewed April 13; closes June 15. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

Cast: Willadean Winkler - Beth Grant J.D. Winkler - David Steen LaSonia Robinson - Octavia Spencer Rayleen Hobbs - Dale Dickey Blues Singer - Debby Holiday

More Legit

  • Protesters demonstrate at the Broadway opening

    'West Side Story' Broadway Opening Night Sparks Protests

    Roughly 100 protestors gathered outside the Broadway premiere of “West Side Story” on Thursday night, carrying placards and chanting in unison to demand the removal of cast member Amar Ramasar. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Ramasar has got to go,” they cried while holding signs that read “Keep predators off the stage,” “Sexual predators shouldn’t get [...]

  • West Side Story review

    'West Side Story': Theater Review

    Whittled down to one hour and forty-five minutes, “West Side Story” – with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreography by Jerome Robbins — has grown exceedingly dark and mislaid some of its moving parts in the new Broadway revival from edgy Belgian director Ivo Van Hove. (Can [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Closing in March After Box Office Struggles

    “The Inheritance,” a sprawling and ambitious epic that grappled with the legacy of the AIDS epidemic, will close on March 15. The two-part play has struggled mightily at the box office despite receiving strong reviews. Last week, it grossed $345,984, or 52% of its capacity, a dispiriting number for a show that was reported to [...]

  • MCC theater presents 'Alice By Heart'

    Steven Sater on Adapting 'Alice by Heart' From a Musical to a Book

    When producers approached lyricist Steven Sater (“Spring Awakening”) to adapt Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” into a musical, his initial reaction was to recoil. His initial thought was that the book didn’t have a beginning, middle and an ending. But Sater pulled it off with his production of “Alice By Heart.” After an off-Broadway [...]

  • The Lehman Trilogy review

    Sam Mendes' 'Lehman Trilogy' Kicks off Ahmanson's New Season

    Sam Mendes’ “The Lehman Trilogy,” which took London’s West End by storm will be part of the Ahmanson’s lineup for the 2020-21 season. It will be joined by Broadway hits “Hadestown” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Artistic director Michael Ritchie announced the season that will also feature four fan favorites and another production to be [...]

  • Zoe Caldwell Dead

    Zoe Caldwell, Four-Time Tony Winner, Dies at 86

    Zoe Caldwell, an Australian actress with a talent for illuminating the human side of imposing icons such as Cleopatra and Maria Callas in a career that netted her four Tony Awards, died on Sunday due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to her son Charlie Whitehead. She was 86. Caldwell occasionally appeared in television and [...]

  • Cambodian Rock Band interview

    Listen: How 'Cambodian Rock Band' Became One of the Most Produced Plays in the U.S.

    One of the hottest trends in American theater this season is Cambodian surf rock from the 1970s — and that’s thanks to “Cambodian Rock Band.” Listen to this week’s Stagecraft podcast below: Playwright Lauren Yee’s genre-bending stage show, part family drama and part rock concert, has become one of the most-produced plays in the U.S. this season. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content